Research Shows Mild Hearing Loss Linked To Triple Risk of Falling
Hearing loss, if left untreated, can result in a variety of problems, including social isolation and depression, dementia and cognitive decline, however recent studies also show that hearing loss is linked to a three-fold risk of falling.
Many Canadians suffer from hearing loss often without realizing there may be more serious problems associated with this condition. Statistics Canada reports that Audiometry results from the 2012 and 2013 Canadian Health Measures Survey (CHMS) indicate “that 20% of adults aged 19 to 79 years had at least mild hearing loss in at least one ear. Hearing loss was more prevalent in older age groups. Adults aged 60 to 79 years were significantly more likely to have hearing loss (47%) compared with younger adults aged 40 to 59 years (16%) and 19 to 39 years (7%). Males (25%) were significantly more likely to have hearing loss compared with females (14%).”
A recent study led by Johns Hopkins researcher, Dr. Frank Lin, in conjunction with the National Institute on Aging, suggests that hearing loss may also be a risk factor for determining a connection between hearing and falls.
The research program periodically gathered health data from thousands of Americans since 1971. During those years, 2,017 participants ages 40 to 69 had their hearing tested and answered questions about whether they had fallen over the past year. Researchers also collected demographic information, including age, sex and race, and tested participants’ vestibular function, a measure of how well they kept their balance. Their findings are published in the Archives of Internal Medicine.
Most concerning from the findings was that people mild hearing loss were nearly three times more likely to have a history of falling. Every additional 10-decibels of hearing loss increased the chances of falling by 1.4 fold. This finding still held true, even when researchers accounted for other factors linked with falling, including age, sex, race, cardiovascular disease and vestibular function. Even excluding participants with moderate to severe hearing loss from the analysis didn’t change the results.
“Gait and balance are things most people take for granted, but they are actually very cognitively demanding,” Lin says. “If hearing loss imposes a cognitive load, there may be fewer cognitive resources to help with maintaining balance and gait.”
Dr. Lin is also the lead researcher on another recent study which states that brain shrinkage seems to be fast-tracked in older adults with hearing loss. That study compounded research collected from a previous study (by the same group), released in February 2011, which showed seniors with hearing loss are significantly more likely to develop dementia over time than those who retain their hearing.
That report also stated that whatever the cause, their finding may offer a starting point for interventions — even as simple as hearing aids — that could delay or prevent dementia by improving patients’ hearing.
The Hearing Foundation of Canada reports that hearing loss is the fastest growing, and one of the most prevalent, chronic conditions facing Canadians today, citing age-related (presbycusis) and noise-induced hearing loss as the two most common types.
If you think you may be suffering from hearing loss take this one-minute hearing test:
1. Do you find that people around you mumble or speak softly?
2. Do you find conversations in crowded places difficult?
3. Do you often have to turn up the volume on your TV, radio or phone?
4. Do friends and family members complain that they have to repeat what they say to you?
5. Do you have to look at people’s faces in order to be able to understand what they are saying?
6. Have you noticed that everyday sounds, like the tweeting of birds, or the clock ticking, are gone?
If you’ve answered yes to more than one of these questions you may have hearing loss.
To book an appointment for a free hearing test and assessment please contact Pindrop Hearing Centres.
To learn more about the Frank Lin study please click here.